Summer poisonings are more frequent for two main reasons.
"On the one hand, because natural causes favor it, since bacteria, which are present in the soil, air or water, grow faster in the hot months (they need temperatures between 36 and 37 degrees Celsius to live and reproduce) and on the other hand, there is a greater tendency to eat outdoors (barbecues, picnics, swimming pools, travel, etc.), where security controls are not the same as in a home kitchen."
Among the main mistakes that are made to increase the risk of intoxication, the specialist points out maintaining inadequate storage temperatures, undercooking food, improper hygiene and leaving products cooked at room temperature for several hours.
The severity of a poisoning and the symptoms a person has will depend on the amount of contaminated food ingested, the person and the type of organism causing the contamination.
The first symptoms usually appear between 2-6 hours after ingestion. The most common are stomach upset, diarrhea, fever, vomiting, abdominal cramps, dehydration, general weakness and headache. "The people who are most susceptible to this type of illness are children, pregnant women, the elderly and individuals with weakened immune systems, so we must pay special attention to these groups," he adds.
The foods that cause the most poisoning
Among the foods that most often cause food poisoning, we highlights:
This food may contain the bacteria Salmonella, which causes diarrhea, vomiting and fever. The risk of intoxication is greater when consumed undercooked, with the yolk soft, or raw, in the case of mayonnaise preparation.
"A good option is to opt for pasteurized eggs, since this process eliminates possible bacteria."
According to the specialist, homemade mayonnaise is the ideal way to avoid poisoning, the problem is that the risk of contamination is great if there is a lack of hygiene and handling.
"You should never eat mayonnaise in packages or containers outside the refrigerator," he says. "It is preferable to take mayonnaise, served in individual disposable airtight bags."
Green leafy vegetables
Green leafy vegetables offered in buffet restaurants may contain hidden bacteria. The expert points out that in these cases it is not enough to wash them with water (unlike at home, where the product can be sanitized in this way), it is necessary to disinfect to eliminate microorganisms.
"Soak the vegetables for about 15 minutes in a solution of water and sodium hypochlorite. For every liter of water we need a spoonful of hypochlorite of good origin and without smell", he adds.
Meats may also contain bacteria such as Clostridium perfringens. The meat must always be kept at a temperature of less than 5ºC and, at the moment of consumption, it must be eaten well done.
Raw or improperly cooked shellfish may contain harmful viruses and bacteria. To avoid intoxication it is necessary to follow some handling and hygiene measures.
Thus, we should make sure that they have a good smell and a bright appearance (although the colour of the mussels does not always reflect the quality, but indicates whether they are female or male). In addition, the shells of clams, cockles, mussels and oysters must be hermetically sealed. If they are not closed it means that the animal is no longer alive. The liquid that sometimes comes out of the shells must be clear, abundant and smelling of the sea.
The sausages must be removed from the original packaging and stored in containers with lids.
"When serving, use a fork to pick up individual slices, avoiding handling the food with your hands," he says before adding that it is best to eat it within two days after opening. "If you see that the sausage has a change in coloring, this is a sign that the bacteria are already present", he insists.
Canned products have an internal varnish that preserves their contents; however, small bumps can break this protection. When opening a can, make sure there are no bubbles, as if it were fermenting.
"If we open a can and do not want to consume all its contents, it is best to remove it from the packaging and store it in another container with a tightly closed lid and consume it in up to three days," he says.
Finally, the specialist points out that hot dog sausage can carry the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes. To avoid eating sausages that are not refrigerated, they need to be cooked for five minutes.
How to treat food poisoning
In most cases, the poisonings are mild and symptoms disappear within two to three days, when contaminated food is completely eliminated.
"However, food poisoning can be aggravated, even leading to the death of the affected person, although these extreme and very rare cases are caused by Clostridium botulinum poisoning, which causes botulism, for example".
In general, the following steps can relieve symptoms of food poisoning and prevent dehydration in adults:
- Drink plenty of fluids such as fruit juices, caffeine-free drinks, and broths to replace fluids and electrolytes.
- Drink small sips of clear liquids or crushed ice if there is still a problem with vomiting.
- Gradually reintroduce foods. We can start with soft, easily digestible foods such as rice, toast or bread, cereal, lean meat, applesauce and bananas and avoid fatty, sugary, dairy, caffeine and alcohol foods until full recovery.
- Infants and children have special concerns. They are likely to become dehydrated more quickly from diarrhea and vomiting, so consult your pediatrician.